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The Essence of the Active Word

Course for Priests of the Christian Community

Schmidt Number: S-5345

On-line since: 28th February, 2017


Stuttgart, 11 July 1923

The hearty words just spoken (by Dr Rittelmeyer) are an introduction of the strong impetus towards the founding of this religious community-building and the essentials which will flow through this religious working community depend upon the earnestness, I could say a deepening earnestness, which lay originally in the intention and gave the impetus towards the founding of this religious community movement. It has to be said that during the course of these years there has been within the religious community a continuation of this earnestness and that one can already say, in a certain sense, that the original intention has been proven time and again.

In this movement it also appears clearly that the outer impressions of the rituals — I mean this in the noblest sense of the word — work right into our combined spiritual movement. A strong current working from within, truly intended and also truly coming out in a devotional attitude as we recently had in one of our oldest members of our anthroposophical movement, Herman Linde, being lead to his cremation. The impressions which came out, just on this occasion, of the ritual act completely shows that the real intention is well on its way to becoming a reality, and can be spoken about in the most varied areas not mentioned until now.

I even have the feeling that the objective and progressing striving of this religious community has gone faster than the inner satisfaction and internal harmonizing in the souls of the individual carriers of these religious thoughts. Things are going well. You can feel yourself drawn out by the way these good things are developing, on the one side, and on the other side you battle with inner soul difficulties with particular meaning, because just at this gathering such inner soul difficulties can be talked about because this particular initial gathering can serve to make the difficulties you have, valid, so we can try during the next days to bring about some harmonizing of these inner difficulties.

It is completely understandable that these inner difficulties are there, because you must, while you are the representatives of the most important spiritual initiative, forever remind yourself that realities in the spiritual world work in a powerful way. Even when you are not aware of them, these realities are there. Events taking place on the surface develop roots especially when it happens in the spiritual sphere when related to good or evil. You must always be aware that if you want to work in the present in a religious area that religious orientated spiritual or non-spiritual streams develop an exceptional activity just at that moment.

Just as we are speaking about this at the moment, there is for example a gathering happening of representatives of the Roman Catholic church in a specific place in Europe, which will probably have a particularly important outcome; at least a remarkable result is being envisaged. Today in fact there are more people than one suspects whose hearts feel deserted by religion. Hearts feel deserted by religion while all too seldom words spoken to them come directly out of the spiritual realm. For quite large layers of humanity, it is simply impossible to address these deserted feelings in their hearts, when it is not addressed in words which are not merely of earthly origin, which implies words presented in a supersensible language in the rituals. You must never forget how powerfully effective the Roman Catholic Church in its mass is just at present, still in its old form yet working strongly on the soul and even more effectively in the way it can be spoken.

One must always be clear about how many powers inherent in humanity are such that errors are able to enter on this side. Consider, when you ask about circulated poetry of Central Europe today, in circles which usually discuss historical progress, and you will not once have a name mentioned such as “Thirteen Linden” von Weber, who has experienced surprisingly many conditions. Why is this so? Out of what basis, when the work of the Roman Catholic spirit is permeated ... (gap in stenographer notes).

These facts are the outer symptoms for a strong spiritual steam, particularly the Roman Catholic one, which works outwardly. This is quite clear to see. Don't forget these forces stream right through the human soul and also go through your souls and some of you probably ascribe it to a subjective experience, stirring in the objective spiritual streams at the present moment. It is of greater meaning that today some of you have formulated these subjective experiences in order for us to allow these to flow into our discussions during the next few days. You must not forget that in such a Movement, such as yours, it must be a question of working with real concrete spirits of the present time. What do people know about real spirit today? One of the most important facts for the support of inner spiritual activity in the present time will be the effect of people starting to see the indications given by Anthroposophy in America, which of course is unheard of. Now outer objects are being used to achieve insights.

Compare the world today with one of a hundred years ago. There are a multitude of differences but one could say that one of the greatest differences is that today our atmosphere is crisscrossed either with telegraph or telephone wires. In Europe this entanglement of wires looks like a child's game compared to America. Here is a trace of possible insight regarding how that might affect people. Eventually one will sense that people are not immune to the activity buzzing through telephone wires in the air, making people into actual induction apparatuses. Consider an opposing stream in their nerves and then again one in the counter direction working in the bloodstream. All of this is what humanity carries in itself today, but it is hardly even noticed. These are pre-eminently Ahrimanic forces being absorbed by people from outer culture which they can't evade. One can think about things that are possible and impossible, and yet to the most powerful realities no thought is given. At some point the difference between Goethe and present day should be spoken about, regarding the fact that Goethe wasn't surrounded by telegraph wires. You see, the desolation of the human soul is in reality connected to all of this.

When you now look around at how the highest spiritual religious needs are satisfied, you must pose the question: Are there in these gratifications already some impulses inherent which take into account an element which renders these things harmless as part of the soul-spiritual experience? — That is not so! The satisfaction of religious needs go back to a time when all of this was not present, which I have illustrated for you. Today there is a gratification of religious needs which is only valid for a few people, which is not alive in the culture we have today. Anthroposophy wants to enter here to introduce newer impulses, impulses capable of making people independent from what they can't be independent of outwardly. What is external must be absorbed inwardly. Yet the polar opposite must be created - that means a strong awareness needs to be created for the importance of your Movement in order to create more and more impulses to come out of your Movement. The most important things must be thought through when you are to answer the question: What shall we do? — The correct application of the ritual and sermon already offers the necessary strong impulse because this religious Movement is built on the basis of Anthroposophy. Yet the awareness that humanity stands in the midst of these influences in the world must be present in every single one of us. Each one of you can contribute much towards fortifying awareness in this direction by raising it up and strengthen it.

We may not forget that gradually everything in humanity has become abstract and intellectual, and that intellectualism today stands completely in the afterglow. Today we may want to just understand things but we must open our hearts for the realities of the spiritual world. Mere understanding, how this or that can be grasped, is all very good but it is not the reason for a movement to be supported. You see, some things need to be particularly perceived: those movements which are alert and equipped with strong will, sprouted from ancient humanity, have unbelievably deep roots in Central Europe and western folklore; the Roman Catholic Church is but one phase of this. Intellectualism having caused the desolation of the heart now results in crowds running in droves back to the existing church, namely the Catholic Church.

You are now only a small movement and few in numbers, but if you carry the awareness within you that you are working with Truth, then you will simply say to yourself: with spiritual movements it does not depend on how great they are in number but how strong their inner strengths are. This will be active when you have a strong awareness of what it is that is being carried. This is exactly what you must have: a strong consciousness for Truth and not allowing it to de-motivate you because in fact the truth is most detested. If you wish to spread some secular falsehood, then people will have no fear of it. Precisely when you want to spread the truth people sense your intention and there will be the strongest opposition you can find.

Today our intention is to examine two big oppositions. I don't want to refer to Jesuitism at every opportunity, also not in the usual sense; I mention it only as representative of the old spirituality penetrating present time in contrast to what modern culture has brought into the present. This stream promises the eradication of modern culture. You must not believe that the will forces in this Movement are insignificant. No doubt there is a striving to have humanity deprived of modern cultural elements, which is what this Movement carries. Modern cultural elements are considered as the devil which needs to be conquered by the old culture. Ahriman can't be eradicated but he can be refined, cleansed and made noble; he must be reckoned with alongside modern culture. Opponents know this as well and for this reason they clearly express their fear regarding your Movement because it contains truth. Errors soon come to nothing but by encountering the truth, the opposition grasp at anything in defence, big or small.

You can say that something has come out of Dornach which is connected to your Movement. However, I want to say without any ill meaning, that the destiny of the Goetheanum is also not without the link to your Movement originating from it. In the place where your actions come alive is where the burning spark is laid. Don't believe that your opposition works with limited resources. Above all we must be clear that our advancing impulse can't be located outwardly, nor can a deadening element be located externally. The one and only aspect of this Movement is its impulse of being in the inmost soul. Outer things can perhaps then take place tragically but there will be no obstacles for the impulse once it has been grasped and deepened and really expresses itself as it needs to do. It was a good impulse which has given an impetus to this religious Movement; it will express itself and bear fruit if it is continued forward with the same good sense. Now I will enter into some impulses coming from your midst, what you would like to discuss.

From the participants the following questions were brought:

  1. How does our ritual relate to the cultic worship which will develop in the future? How should we work together in the right way with the Anthroposophic Movement? How can we do the right thing towards moral supportiveness of the overall Movement?

  2. I ask for clarity regarding preceding historical events with particular reference to the Rhur district. (Rhurgebiet)

  3. It doesn't help me to bring an objective balance to the ritual steps. They change as I practice it. The Act of Consecration of Man can be read in such a way as to physically link it to the nervous system but then it is not beneficial.

Rudolf Steiner: It is necessary to consider this last question or let someone else express it more precisely. For example, you speak a sentence and it is not always clear if it has fulfilled the ritual of worship. That is a valid question. It needs to be looked at even closer. It would not be good to bring the nervous system into it. Naturally the act of worship must be on such a level that everything coming from it is not just on the level of the nervous system, which is already considered as far too important. ... (Gap in stenographer's notes.) In your subjective experience you must honour the objective experience flowing out of the ritual.

No uncertainty may limit speaking about the relationship of the ritual to anything else. The ritual which comes about, if you ask the spiritual worlds, is the ritual which lives within you. It is not in some or other outer exceptional form but it is the ritual which is already finding its future but through life itself. The real inner involvement with the ritual is closely connected with the consciousness of the priest. The priest's consciousness can only develop when an inner honesty is outwardly present. Therefore, it would be good when the subjective soul aspect, experienced by individual personalities, as they work with the ritual, are openly spoken about on an occasion such as this. Only when you utter your subjective needs can we start talking in a fruitful way. ... (Gap in stenographer's notes.)

It boils down to the speech of the ritual being expressed as the speech of higher worlds. Human speech is from the outset an earthly speech because it finds expression in structured air. Of course it is foolish to assume that departed souls can talk in a human way. Mediums in Germany let the spirits speak German, English in England and French in France as if one can be a German, English or a Frenchman after death. A spirit does no longer speak with a human language and can't pervade the air. What streams through speech as spirit depends on how it is spoken. At the very moment you have the feeling you are speaking with reverence then you can convey something spiritual through the spoken word. What does this mean: reverence? Reverence is something our philosophers have quite unlearned. They argue that the things they are discussing need to be grasped and touched. Whoever wants to speak about spiritual things must be aware that thought is like an etheric touch and that thoughts should be formed with reverence, just as also in the physical world, if it has to be touched with awe then it only is done on the surface. This inner feeling of reverence within speaking is of course the start. As a result, talking is then not only about content but physiognomic, it becomes conscious and one can gradually become filled with the genius of speech. Through this, you start to discover talking itself as a living spiritual experience. This must be present in the ritual to the highest degree. Then you really stand within the process and therefore realize: you are not speaking subjectively but you are a tool for the spiritual world.

On this rests the substantial understanding that it can be met with the ritual. Contributing most significantly to this is the How in the speech. This How however comes through the consciousness of being a tool for the spiritual world. Every small ritual action is a continuation of what flows out of the Word. In the ritual these attribute to the words become gestures. Now the struggle surfaces in your awareness: You may think as you wish about something (this is irrelevant) but it comes down to you saying what the gods want you to say. Through this, one arrives at the point of awareness that the impulse of the Act of Consecration can be allowed to work through every little thing one does throughout the day.

What is this impulse? The impulse which comes out of the Act of Consecration lies essentially in the sacrifice/offering. In the sacrifice the earthly is offered to the spiritual world; we lay it down at the feet at the spiritual world. With communion we receive it again but now it comes out of the spiritual world. We have surrendered it out of the earthly. What happened in between? Transubstantiation; an exchange has happened with the spiritual world. This brings an awareness which allows us to stand within the spiritual world each time we experience the Act of Consecration. It is lifted higher by the Gospel reading preceding it. When the Gospel reading is a corresponding preparation for the interpenetration of the spiritual world between the offering and communion, then the right way to experience the Consecration of Man is found.

Of course an addition is implicit to this: the Act of Consecration needs to be conducted at least every day. It is prescribed for Catholic priests to perform the Mass every day; through this they receive a powerful force. This must not be celebrated absolutely every day, but it is absolutely necessary that the Mass must be celebrated every day. Through this sensing you relate to the spiritual world. This is of the utmost importance.

Something else happens between one day and the next for priests: sleep happens between the two. What does this mean, sleep? Present day science has the peculiarity that the most important things in life make sense externally, but not inwardly. What is said about sleep is that it is an illusion. During sleep the soul-spiritual part of the human being, the `I' and the astral body, are separated from the physical and etheric part. Between falling asleep and waking up the physical and ether bodies work on the level of the plant kingdom. What the human being has as remnant of the plant kingdom is found in his sleep, thus the human being descends as a physical being down to the plant level. This means processes are taking place which are of a lower kind than normal when a person is fully conscious. Something “cooks” up, warmth and cold are active in lower forces of nature which work in the same way where growth takes place. Only then do we have the right feeling when waking up — this must, of course, be perceived spiritually, otherwise it can be dangerous — when we say to ourselves: our I and astral bodies were in the divine world, our bodies we had handed down to the lower worlds; we then take the body back from the lower world which actually lies beneath the actual human world. This we must not forget; from an Ahrimanic level we take our bodies back, it is full of Ahrimanic build-up which we need to destroy during our waking hours. The first hour after waking should pass in such a way that we are capable of eradicating these things deposited overnight especially in for the form of salts in our bodies. When you don't manage this then the body becomes full of rheumatism, gout and so on, and on a soul level, full of lascivious thoughts. These things come from what has been experienced during sleep.

While the human being has sunk down (during sleep) to a level below that of humanity, the priest must now restore up to a higher level. This happens when the priest practices the ritual. One does not need, like in the Catholic church, to practice the Mass every day, but one should live within the Act of Consecration. That works as powerfully as the daily read mass. It then becomes powerful objectively. These are things we must observe in reality. It is essential that the human being sleeps every night. The Act of Consecration of Man is as important as sleep. If you occupy yourself every day with the Act if Consecration, you lift yourself out of the lower level of sleep-life. The evangelical attitude knows nothing about these things; it doesn't want to lift priests out but want them to remain on the level of nightly sleep-life. This lifting out of people from their nightly life of sleep, this conscious opposition to the sinking down of people into their lower human consciousness, this is what actually constitutes the vocation of priests.

What is the level on which human beings exist? The human level lies between the plant and animal regions, also between air and water. The human being is firstly mineral, plant-like, animal-like; not yet actually human. The human being will only be formed in future. When we meditate through the Mass we don't enter the animal-like aspect but enter into the divine which otherwise can only work unconsciously in us. If we carry around with us only what is daily consciousness — yes, you see, we would not look like we look now, we would only have a body developed up to the diaphragm, men would have heads like bulls and women would have heads of lions. What we have in our day consciousness doesn't enable us to have a human physical head — that is given to us by the divine. For this reason, we see the embryo head as developed to a high degree. During normal waking hours we can't entirely embrace our total human form but we learn to take this human form which is godly, to really experience the earth. You only come to have the right to feel yourself positioned in the human physiognomy when you lift yourself out of the animalistic, during the Mass. Then you free yourself from the animal and lion nature and as a result, have a human-godly physiognomy.

This is where the Catholic Church is insistent — for the divine to speak through the human. When you start to become the practical performer of the ritual then you need to grasp these things infinitely more earnestly than in the normal sense; to the extreme it is necessary to look at it, and say to yourselves: we don't carry a human head when we interact with ordinary people, because the divine works in the human head.

For this reason, it is why the “Act of Consecration” is not a poor expression but a good one, a very good one. How your head is positioned in the world is not due to your doing but God created it thus. Ordination means taking what is firm and making it fluid, what the individual has is baptised into the spiritual. As a result, you can say: I earn the right to live in the divine through the Act of Consecration and meditation and thus allow the members of the congregation to only take part in the Act of Consecration and meditation. This doesn't contradict the social and also not the evangelical consciousness but in fact it is the right attitude to reality. Only thereby it is contradicted that you turn yourself away from the things in the ordinary world; yet by consciously juxtaposing yourself to it, you conquer it. There is always more to strive for, more to struggle through and understand because priest consciousness is not a given from one day to the next, you must first allow these things to permeate you.

A speech exercise is asked for.

Rudolf Steiner: The Catholic Church considers language seriously and insists on speech exercises. The Jesuit must recite and learn to scan, he must learn how to shape an opening sentence and a concluding sentence, how to prepare the initial sentence in order to be convincing with the second one and by ending without impoverishing it by lack of eloquence. Speech becomes something objective. Speech for most people is only an expression of a purely physical organ — the larynx and the mucous membranes. The spoken word which is to be practiced in the ritual must make itself free from the individual, it must have its foundation as a power to vibrate the air without allowing the mucus to mix into it. Today this is not something that can be done effortlessly; it needs practice. The Berlin University once had a professor of eloquence, called Curtius, but so little was known in that time that he never fulfilled this lectureship but instead recited Greek art history.

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